Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  255 / 298 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 255 / 298 Next Page
Page Background

Vico’s Ring


cribes to, and credits them with, have nothing of the taint of the

first kind of knowledge that is associated with «imagination» in

Spinoza’s epistemic system.

This divergent judgment on early human history cannot be

separated from the methodology Vico follows in reconstructing

it, just as Spinoza’s fixation of «meaning», or a «unity of theme»,

in Scripture, cannot be separated from his «method of interpret-

ing Scripture». In the process of exploring Vico’s methodology,

we will let ourselves be guided by the perspective from which

Vico himself approaches matters. The perspective he takes is ex-

pressed in the binary terms of “philosophy” and “poetry”. Vico’s

hermeneutical agenda is set in the very first paragraph of Book I,

identifying the issue at hand: «[…] we shall here examine particu-

larly if Homer was ever a philosopher» (§ 780), and brought to a

resolution at the end of the Book, first by expressly denying the

“philosophical” nature of Homer, and then, positively, crediting

primacy to “poetic wisdom”: «[…] the philosophers did not dis-

cover their philosophies in the Homeric fables […]. But it was

poetic wisdom itself [which] provided occasions for the philoso-

phers to meditate their lofty truths […]» (§ 901)



The polarity under which Vico pursues his inquiry allows him

delve into and explore various aspects and dimensions of the is-

sues he was concerned with in

Scienza nuova

, all at the same time,

of which we will touch on the following: (a) the true source of

knowledge – is it “poetry” or “philosophy”?; (b) “poetry”

(myths/fables) and the origin(s) of human civilization; (c) “poet-

ic” language as gateway to historical reconstruction; and, lastly,

(d) the “Homeric question” of the authorship of the Homeric


Vico frames the issue of the source of knowledge as a polem-

ic with Socrates/Plato


(and other ancient philosophers) (§§

780, 808), and by implication early modern philosophers like

Grotius, Selden, and Pufendorf, but they typify the kind of epis-

temic and cognitive aspirations (against which he wishes to de-